Total knee replacement is a surgical procedure to replace a damaged or diseased knee joint with an artificial joint. It is a common and safe procedure.
If your knee is damaged by arthritis or injury, it may be hard for you to do your daily activities. You may also have severe pain that keeps you from enjoying hobbies such as running and skiing.
The most common reason for for knee replacement surgery is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the bones of the knee wears away. A serious knee injury may also be a reason for total knee replacement surgery.
There are risks with any surgical procedure. These risks will depend on your age and overall health. Your physician will discuss these risks with you before your surgery.
Risks for total knee replacement include:
- Blood clots in the legs that could travel to the lungs
- Problems with the implants
- Chronic pain
Before surgery, your doctor may do a complete medical history. You may have blood tests to rule out anemia or blood clotting disorders. Your doctor will talk with you about any medicines that you will need to take after surgery. Make a list of all the medicines you are currently taking. Be sure include any prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines (like cough syrup or allergy pills), inhalers, patches, vitamin supplements, and herbal remedies. In addition, you may meet with a physical therapist to talk about a rehabilitation plan for before and after surgery.
You can also attend a joint replacement class offered by Intermountain Healthcare. The classes are taught by registered nurses with special training in orthopedic care and will help you prepare for the surgery.
The surgery is done in an operating room at a hospital. Once you are admitted to the hospital, a member of the anesthesia team will talk with you about your options. The most common types of anesthesia are general anesthesia (you are put to sleep) or a nerve block (spinal, epidural, or regional) anesthesia (you are awake but your body is numb from the waist down).
A nurse or member of your healthcare team will insert an intravenous (IV) line in your vein. You will then be brought into the operating room for surgery. There are four basic steps to a knee replacement surgery.
- The damaged cartilage surfaces at the ends of the femur and tibia are removed along with a small amount of underlying bone.
- The cartilage and bone are replaced with metal parts that recreate the surface of the joint.
- The kneecap is resurfaced to fit with the new parts.
- A medical-grade plastic spacer is placed between the metal parts to create a smooth, gliding joint.
Your doctor will talk with you about your surgery with you before you go home. How well you recover from total knee replacement surgery will depend on your commitment to your rehabilitation.
Your healthcare team will give you instructions once you are discharged from the hospital. These instructions will help you:
- Avoid infection
- Prevent blood clots
- Care for your surgery site
- Take your medicine safely
- Prevent swelling
- Protect your new joint
It is important that you follow these instructions. You will also begin physical therapy a few days following your surgery. Your physical therapist will create an exercise plan to help you strengthen your muscles as you get used to using your new joint.
Call your doctor if you have:
- Fever (an oral temperature over 101°F or 38° C)
- Redness, swelling, pus or a foul odor in the area of your surgery
- More drainage from the surgical site
- Increasing pain, especially in your lower leg (calf)
During your recovery, you will likely experience pain and discomfort from the surgery. Getting pain relief at home will help you rest better and heal properly.
- Take your pain medicine exactly as your doctor ordered.Rest as much as possible. Have a family member or friend stay with you to care for you and help you move around the first week or so after surgery. This person can also help you manage your pain medicine